My first thought this morning was a string of creative profanity followed by some half-hearted attempt at self-motivation. This was my first day at the earlier swim time and I forgot how early feels. Ugh morning! I mean sweet! I can’t wait to swim! I didn’t even bother to look at the weather and the ridiculously butt-numbing-cold temperature for fear I would lose the little motivation to which I was clinging.
I scraped off my car both inside and out, and slowly drove on the packed ice that was once a road; every stop and start was a slip sliding tractionless adventure.
I parked and started walking to the pool taking carefully placed baby steps to ensure I remained upright. My 2-block walk was filled with positive affirmations, praising myself for actually attempting to exist in this polar vortex of hell. Convincing myself this would be the best swim ever known to womankind. This day was going to be awesome and this swim was just the beginning of the awesomeness. By the time I arrived at the building, I was oozing positivity.
I walked into the locker room feeling motivated and ready to go when I turned the corner and saw HER. Shirley, the leader of the old lady coven that ruled the pool during this hour. Ugh. I had forgotten about SHIRLEY. Gossipy, cranky, nosy, bossy, SHIRLEY.
Shirley and her crew make it their business to know the business of every person at the pool. They love to tell people which lockers they cannot use, they guard the best shower stall and they talk about others fully aware everyone can hear them.
Mostly, they complain and complain. They bob around on noodles in a circle of negativity. I feel sorry for them as it is probably the highlight of their day but it is draining on everyone else. They are the exact opposite of what I hope to be at that age.
I kept my head low, trying not to make eye contact as I started unpacking my gym bag and putting everything in the exact order I would use them post swim to reduce the amount of freezing, naked locker room time. Ugh, I hate freezing, naked locker room time.
I almost forgot about Shirley as I was thinking about how much I hate freezing, naked locker room time. When I glanced up and she was right there in front of me.
“We haven’t seen you here for quite some time now,” she said in her best old lady judgmental tone as she checked out my expanded hips.
“Yes, I am just getting back into it again,” I replied as politely as I could as I continued to get ready for what I still hoped would be an awesome swim.
“You know, you need to work out regularly,” she said as she began lecturing me on the benefits of regular exercise and scolding me for my lack of dedication. I let her blabber on as I tried to stuff my hair in my super tight silver swim cap that crushes my ears and makes me look like a pinhead.
She paused finally and seemed to be waiting for some reply from me. My stupid swim cap slipped out of my hand and snapped my ear causing a slight ringing as I crafted my response.
I looked straight into her squinty eyes and suddenly I imagined punching her, just a quick pop to the mouth, nothing too severe. I felt my hands twitching a bit. I could imagine her head snapping back, her stunned look as she realized that there was in fact someone willing to punch a bitchy old lady in the face. It felt good for that brief second.
Of course, I am not actually a violent person. I think I hit a sister once but that can hardly count.
I thought about all the fuss, her cronies would be in a tizzy then eventually doctors, police, lawyers would all show up to do their business. I would be perp walked out of the building looking utterly ridiculous in a swimsuit and shiny swim cap. Plus, in this weather skin freezes so quickly so that would suck even more and I would probably lose a toe. The local news would have a field day going on about the old lady brawl at the physical therapy pool. “The Soup” would do a segment with mankini popping an older mankini. I would hate all the negative attention for just that tiny moment of satisfaction.
So I took a deep breath, did not punch her in the face and said, “Um, okaaay.” I really drew out the “aaaaaa” to emphasize how little I cared about her opinion.
Yet she continued, locker room shaming me for my obvious lack of recent activity. Finally, I was done getting my cap in place and I interrupted her.
“You don’t know me. You have no idea what I have or have not been doing. You don’t know my situation. Maybe you should just mind your own damn business.” I started to walk away and I saw a couple of her minions peeking around the corner, probably wondering if I was going to punch her. Most likely disappointed I had not.
As I exited the locker room I heard her going on about how rude I was and I glanced back giving her one last glare.
I spent the next hour swimming my laps at a pace so slow it might not appear that I am actually moving. Shirley and her minions bobbed up and down on their colorful noodles and complained about how they hate the lap swimmers who take too much space, the weather, and their various aches and pains.
I tried hard to tune them out when I would take my breaths but old lady bitching just reverberates in a pool. At some point I must have succeeded in my ignoring, as I did not even notice when they left, instead I was enjoying the warm water and peaceful underwater sounds of my backstroke.
So today I swam for an hour, walked a couple miles, ate healthy and did not punch an old lady in the face and I feel pretty proud.